Meningitis is swelling of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Aseptic meningitis is different from bacterial meningitis because it is caused by something other than bacteria.
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Aseptic meningitis is caused by other things than bacteria. It may stem from:
- Infections from:
- Problems with the immune system
- Some cancers
- Some medicines, such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), and IV antibodies
Things that may raise the risk of meningitis include:
- Having some cancers
- Health issues or taking medicine that affects immune system
- Being around someone who has been sick
- Having certain long term infections
- The season—it is more common in the summer and early fall
- Working in a daycare or healthcare setting
A person with aseptic meningitis may have:
- Fever and chills
- Sensitivity to light
- Stiff neck
- Nausea or vomiting
- Joint or muscle pain
- Belly pain
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The CSF around the spine and brain will likely be tested with a lumbar puncture, which is also called a spinal tap. It can confirm meningitis. Tests of the blood and fluid may be done to look for a cause.
Images of the brain and spine may be taken with a:
Most people get better with time. How it is treated depends on the cause. It may involve:
- Medicines to treat the cause of the infection
- Pain relievers
- Steroids to lower swelling
The doctor will stop any medicines that are causing problems.
Note: Do not give aspirin or aspirin products to a child who has an infection. It may cause serious problems.
People can lower their chance of aseptic meningitis by:
- Washing their hands often, especially if they:
- Are around a person who has an infection
- Changed the diaper of an infant who has an infection
- Regularly cleaning surfaces or objects that are touched often
- Making sure their vaccinations are up to date
- Aseptic meningitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/aseptic-meningitis.
- Meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html.
- Mount, H.R. and Boyle, S.D. Aseptic and bacterial meningitis: evaluation, treatment, and prevention. American Family Physician, 2017; 96(5): 314-322.
- Rimas Lukas, MD
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